Residents of Campbell’s Island in unincorporated Rock Island County went about their business Thursday, patiently waiting for the swollen Mississippi River to recede.

Meanwhile, people living in the nearby East Moline neighborhood called Watertown continued cleaning up with the help of volunteers, city crews and inmates from the East Moline Correctional Center who helped scoop and throw away tons of debris left by residents during their cleanup efforts.

“It’s a lot of hard work, but we are willing to do it,” said Sarah Cunningham of Kewanee, Ill.

She was among four residents and two staff from Royal Oaks Care Center in Kewanee who heard about Watertown’s flooding and decided to come Thursday to help.

They ended up at the home of Margaret Polite and her daughter, Kim. Everyone was busy cleaning up and hauling out just about everything inside, from appliances to jars of homemade pickles, green beans and salsa, among other items, that Kim had canned. Thursday afternoon, she was busy throwing away all the contents of those jars.

“It’s bad,” Kim Polite said. “We don’t have any water.”

East Moline Fire Chief Rob DeFrance said between 150 and 200 Watertown residents were affected by the flash flooding that occurred late in the evening of June 12 and in the early morning hours of

June 13.

Mayor John Thodos said it was not river flooding, but flash flooding that took place after the area received 4 to 5 inches of rain in two hours. The

150-horsepower pump for that area turns on automatically and was working, he said. “There’s no way the system can handle” that much rain in two hours.

He said a lot of water went into people’s basements, ruining furnaces, clothes washers and dryers, he said.

With the help of so many, including Project Now and the Red Cross, progress is being made.

DeFrance said the fire department conducted a damage assessment Wednesday and determined that in about 90 percent of cases in which residents were without gas and electricity, those services have been restored.

“The fire department is just one piece of the puzzle. More work has been done by neighbors. That’s been the key,” he said. “The city contacted the warden, who gave permission for their inmates to pick up debris.”

Robin Johnson watched as inmates cleaned up debris from the home of her parents, Herbert and Kitty Harker, who live a couple of doors down from Johnson in Watertown.

“They have been married for 63 years and have lived there all those years,” Johnson said. “And my mother has lived there since she was 8 years old living with her parents. They didn’t have flood insurance because it isn’t in a floodplain. But it’s a total loss. The Red Cross put us up in a hotel because of my dad’s special needs, but that ends (today).”

On Campbell’s Island, a couple of miles away, things were fairly routine. A few residents were in their yards, some mowing or doing other chores. A couple of young women sunbathed in a yard.

Still, others could not be in their yard without a canoe or hip waders. There are approximately 210 homes on the island.

“People over here on the high part of the island don’t have it so bad,” resident Bob Sickels said. “On the other side, it is pretty high. People are canoeing in an out. But things are getting better as long as it doesn’t rain.”

On the other side, James Young was busy working in his garage. His home was spared flooding, but water did approach his yard. He easily can survey the vast amount of river infiltrating the tiny island street and yards from his driveway. “It’s going down pretty fast now,” he said.

Ray Nees, director of zoning and building for Rock Island County and a certified floodplain manager, said things there are going relatively well.

“Most of the houses that were susceptible were raised after the flood of 2001,” he said. “So, even though flooding is a pain, they should be out of harm’s way. I was pretty happy when I went through Campbell’s Island on Wednesday.”

He said in some cases, residents can get assistance for the cost of elevating their homes.

“Some who do not have flood insurance are hesitant to call, but we encourage people to call us anonymously and talk to us,” he said. “It might be time for you to give us a call. … I’ve never had people who elevated their home come back and say it

wasn’t worth it.”

Doug Schorpp can be contacted at (563) 383-2292 or

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